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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Battlestar Galactica: Occupation (S3/E1)

by JASmius

Rating: **

Written by: Ron Moore
Directed by: Sergio Gezzan

It’s four months later (in more ways than one); let’s see what life under the Cylon heel is like for the enslaved survivors of humanity.

But first, let’s reset the table.

Four months earlier, the freshly established settlement on the planet dubbed “New Caprica” was conquered and occupied by a Cylon task force led there by the nuclear explosion set off by the Number Six clone Gina as a final act of man-hating revenge against newly-elected President Gaius Baltar, who wasted no time in unconditionally surrendering to the Cylons, thus bringing his role in Humanity’s destruction full circle. The Adamas, Bill and Lee, managed to get away with their respective battlestars and the remnants of the civilian fleet, along with selected officers such as temporary Galactica XO Karl “Helo” Agathon and Anastasia Dualla-Adama, Lee’s new wife. The rest of the cast is trapped back on New Caprica where they foolishly followed the herd into inevitable captivity, and now fight a lonely, desperate insurgency against the Cylons in the dim hope that Adama will somehow, some way, some day rescue them.

‘Shya, right, right? C’mon, you know that’s as inevitable as it is implausible. But as I keep telling myself, we’ll get there soon enough.

The new story tracks get established without delay. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

Remember Starbuck’s no-holds-barred interrogation of the Leobin Conoy Cylonoid model in “Flesh & Bone”? Now one of his “brothers” (or maybe it’s the same one – hard to say that it matters all that much) gets to turn the tables on poor Kara, only not in the way you might have expected.

In their first scene, we see Conoy and Kara sitting down to dinner together. Conoy has prepared what looks like an honest-to-goodness steak dinner with all the trimmings. Only thing missing is the candlelight and wine. Already it comes across as more than a little creepy.

Conoy moves to Kara’s side of the table to slice up her steak for her. Kara, all calmness if not sweetness and light, suddenly reaches out with lightning quickness, snatches Conoy’s knife, and runs him through with it. With his dying gurgle he whispers that he’ll “see her soon,” or words to that effect. Later, we see Conoy coming down the steps into the living area again like nothing had happened. This time he tries to get romantic, or at least intimate, with Kara. She quietly snarls that she’ll kill him (again) if he lays a finger on her. He backs away, still maddeningly civil, and turns in for the night, with the parting comment that either way, she’ll be sleeping with him. Then she looks down to where Conoy’s previous corpse still lies on the floor, knife protruding from his chest.

Why did Kara not attempt to flee? Because this “apartment” has bars on more than just the windows. It is an upholstered prison cell. And she is the Cylon’s designated Patty Hearst. Boy, Conoy sure knows how to exact poetic revenge, doesn’t he?

Well, there’s Stockholm Syndrome, so why not rifle through the other occupation clichés?

First sight we get of Colonel Tigh is a sight indeed. He languishes in a prison cell, all disheveled, unshaven, and with a bandage over his right eye. “Brother” Cavil (Dean Stockwell) enters to give him good news: he’s being released. In an adjoining scene we see why – Ellen Tigh, one-time ambitious, scheming dirty old lady, is putting her ruttiness to more desperate use copulating with either the same or a different Cavil in return for her husband’s release. Curious that she does him with her clothes on; I guess there are still a few lines that can’t be crossed even on cable TV.

Tigh is the leader of the Human insurgency and the Cylons bloody well know it. The bandage over his right eye, for example, is raggedly designed to cover the fact that the eye is no longer there – the Cylons tore it out, showed it to him, and then stomped it flat. Evidently the torture wasn’t successful in breaking him, so they started cultivating his wife who, in this radically different environment, has become frantically monogamous and is willing to do anything – yes, ANYTHING – to save her hubby.

Yes, that’s foreshadowing. You’ll see of what in good time.

Once released, Tigh makes a beeline for the insurgency’s secret underground stronghold to meet with Chief Tyrol and Sam Anders, Starbuck’s husband, who went from being a guerilla fighter on Old Caprica to being a guerilla fighter on New Caprica all in the space of two episodes. Man, sometimes there really is little chance for career advancement.

If it struck anybody else as unlikely that the Cylons wouldn’t have found the insurgency’s makeshift HQ over the space of four months given that there was only one settlement on the planet and the “toasters” must have at least rudimentary scanning equipment, join the club. Ditto not “bugging” Tigh in order to flush out the other insurgency leaders. But this story isn’t about a successful occupation, so it’s best not to go there.

The insurgents’ latest plan is to strike a blow against another occupation cliché, the collaborators who go to work for the occupiers to do their dirty work for them. In this case, the delightfully Orwellian “New Caprica Police.”

The recruitment inducement is that the captive Human population will be more amenable to their new synthetic overlords if a “Human face” is put on the occupation. Wait, that doesn’t sound quite right. Um…the captive Human population will be more amenable to their new synthetic overlords with an armed Human buffer between the two…nah, the arms are still pointed in the wrong direction. Uh….the captive Human population will be more amenable to their new synthetic overlords…oh, felgercarb, no they won’t. But every evil occupier employs this divide & conquer strategy despite the fact that it never works, and the Cylons are no different.

The NCP isn’t the insurgents’ primary target, though; they get wind through a “source in the Baltar administration” (which turns out to be ex-Lieutenant Gaeda – bet he never dreamed his assignment as Gaius’ errand boy way back in season one would land him in this unhappy predicament) that the traitorous puppet Chief Executive himself will be present at the first commencement ceremony of NCP graduates. And the insurgents – Tigh in particular – are positively bloodthirsty in their desire to take out Baltar.

There is an irony in the president’s ill-concealed public perception as a sell-out, given that he is also responsible for facilitating, if unwittingly, the original Cylon holocaust. Nobody knows about that to this day, although Laura Roslin does suspect it, but when all this is over and the inevitable retribution is taken against collaborators, Baltar could write an entire candid memoir about his being made a patsy by Caprica Six and it wouldn’t make his image stink any worse.

However despondently guilt-ridden the puppet prez has become, his instinct for self-preservation is undiminished as he decides to pull a no-show at the graduation event. Unfortunately the insurgents apparently lack the preparatory acumen to anticipate this possibility and give their suicide bomber an abort code.

Yes, suicide bomber. I might as well get this out of the way: Ron Moore is self-evidently using this occupation angle to depict symbolically the reconstruction of Iraq with, of course, the Humans representing the Iraqi and foreign Islamic Fundamentalists and, naturally, the Cylons representing the United States and its coalition allies. That’s one more reason to hate this series arc swerve, as if there weren’t already a plethora of them. It’s subtlety that only Rick Berman and Brannon Braga could appreciate.

Anyway, Tyrol is horrified at the idea of suicide bombing, arguing passionately against it as a moral line that should not be crossed even in war. Osama bin Tigh counters that it’s “just a military tactic, like sending a soldier out to die on a traditional battlefield.” I guess torture tends to erode away all moral qualms – doubtless another obnoxiously dishonest “civil libertarian” axiom Moore was seeking to put over.

Regardless, the plan for the attack goes forward, but only on the proviso that President Baltar is there to be blown up. But in all the excitement it appears that nobody thought to communicate that proviso to “Duck,” the suicide bomber, as he still blows himself and all his “class”mates to merry hell despite Baltar’s no-show. Or, in other words, the insurgency got much less bang for its “Duck.”

Hey, I extract my own retribution in strange and mysterious ways.

Next week: The Cylons' hamfisted retribution.


And, by popular demand, my conference championship picks:

Carolina* (-3)

New England
Denver* (+3)

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